All About Per­for­mance

I must be go­ing a lit­tle silly as I get old. I could have sworn that my old Core i7-950 Ne­halem ar­chi­tec­ture was a quad- core. I hon­estly didn’t know it was an early sin­gle- core legacy pro­ces­sor. I also didn’t know that most games from six or seven years ago needed two to four high- pow­ered cores to get the job done, but sin­gle- core was the king! Let’s see: It seemed like we had quad- cores, but most games couldn’t take ad­van­tage of those ex­tra cores, due to not be­ing en­coded for the ex­tra cores. Hon­est, I am so con­fused now that I think ev­ery­thing I’ve read in Max­i­mumPC for sev­eral years must be a lie, and I’ve learned noth­ing by be­ing a long-time sub­scriber. Maybe should get my info from an­other source…. – Rick Ul­brich EX­EC­U­TIVE EDI­TOR ALAN DEX­TER RE­SPONDS: The ar­ti­cle in ques­tion, “Op­ti­mize Your Up­grades,” was ac­tu­ally point­ing out that the sin­gle- core per­for­mance that In­tel en­joys to­day can be traced back to ar­chi­tec­ture used by that ven­er­a­ble chip, not that it only had one core. We haven’t had se­ri­ous sin­gle- core pro­ces­sors on desk­tops since the Pen­tium 4, and even that had Hy­per-Thread­ing. Since the orig­i­nal Ne­halem, In­tel has re­fined and tweaked this ar­chi­tec­ture, but its DNA hasn’t shifted sig­nif­i­cantly.

As for gam­ing, de­vel­op­ers are bound by the in­stall base to only make the best out of what most peo­ple have, not what’s nec­es­sar­ily avail­able—we may have 16- and 18- core pro­ces­sors avail­able, but no de­vel­oper is go­ing to pro­duce a game that is optimized for such a chip, as the vast ma­jor­ity of gamers still only have quad­core chips at best (ac­cord­ing to the most re­cent Steam sur­vey, over 90 per­cent of the mar­ket has quad- core or less, with 30 per­cent still rum­bling along with du­al­core sil­i­con). Don’t worry, we haven’t been ly­ing to you, just try­ing to keep you on your toes.

Bot­tle­neck Busi­ness

Thank you for the ar­ti­cle on bot­tle­necks. I down­loaded the two pro­grams that you had rec­om­mended (HWMon­i­tor and Unig­ine Su­per­po­si­tion), and dis­cov­ered what the bot­tle­necks were in my sys­tem. The re­sults were no sur­prise, as my ma­chine is al­most six years old, but has been up­graded over the years prob­a­bly as far as one can. How­ever, it was in­ter­est­ing to see how well a sys­tem as old as mine was per­form­ing. I can play CoD WWII at 40fps, so I’m happy. I’ve at­tached a screen­grab of my GPU bench­mark re­sults to this email. – Scott Cortese EX­EC­U­TIVE EDI­TOR ALAN DEX­TER RE­SPONDS: Glad to hear you found the ar­ti­cle en­joy­able and use­ful, and that you can play the game you want at smooth frame rates. This is one of the rea­sons we love PCs so much—you can keep up­grad­ing them to get a ma­chine that is still rel­e­vant years af­ter its cre­ation.

Do You Vape?

What’s with the va­por­ware you guys keep re­view­ing? I was look­ing for an ITX board for my Ryzen 5 pro­ces­sor. You re­viewed the Asus ROG Strix X370- I Gam­ing. Nope, no­body has it. Then you re­viewed the MSI B350i AC. Again, nowhere to be found. Can I get one of the boards you re­viewed? They seem to be the only ones in ex­is­tence. Can you guys tell man­u­fac­tur­ers to con­firm they are ac­tu­ally go­ing to sell the boards they send you be­fore you put out a re­view?

– Joey Martinez EX­EC­U­TIVE EDI­TOR ALAN DEX­TER RE­SPONDS: We have no in­ter­est in re­view­ing va­por­ware, but that isn’t what’s hap­pen­ing here, as the prod­ucts in ques­tion do ex­ist, they just ap­pear to be rather pop­u­lar, and as such, have sold out at a lot of places. Even so, at the time of check­ing, a look at the “Where to buy” sec­tion of the of­fi­cial Asus US web­site shows that B&H has stock (while Mi­cro Center and Wal­mart have sold out). As for the MSI moth­er­board, it does in­deed ap­pear to have sold out ev­ery­where— even the “Where to buy” links all point to a lack of stock (at least, the sev­eral we tried did). Even so, when we get hard­ware in for re­view, we al­ways make sure that it is avail­able to buy, oth­er­wise there wouldn’t be any point look­ing at it. Of course, what we don’t know is how many of a par­tic­u­lar moth­er­board are made avail­able to the

mar­ket, or what the take- up will be.

Buyer Be­ware

I thor­oughly en­joyed the “Builder’s Bi­ble” ar­ti­cle in your April is­sue, es­pe­cially the prep work that needs to go into a build, which I haven’t seen in sim­i­lar ar­ti­cles. There are two things I want to com­ment on, though. (1) Re­gard­ing your sug­ges­tion about buy­ing one or two pieces of hard­ware per month, in­stead of go­ing all- out in one go— buy­ers need to be aware of the ven­dor’s re­turn pol­icy. You don’t want to run into a sit­u­a­tion where you buy items over a multi- month pe­riod, and then six or seven months later, for ex­am­ple, go to build the sys­tem only to find that a piece of hard­ware is de­fec­tive or dead, and you can’t re­turn it, be­cause it’s way past the ven­dor’s re­turn pol­icy time frame. (2) I worked part­time on a “Build Your Own Per­sonal Com­puter” course at a com­mu­nity col­lege (first as a vol­un­teer lab as­sis­tant, and then a co- in­struc­tor) for a num­ber of years. The stu­dents pur­chased the parts to build a com­puter, and my­self and other lab as­sis­tants and the two in­struc­tors would as­sist them. There was more than one oc­ca­sion when a stu­dent pur­chased a new, well­known brand-name part from a rep­utable ven­dor, only to find out that it was DOA when we went to fire up the sys­tem. Usu­ally it was mem­ory, but we had a cou­ple of moth­er­boards that were also DOA.

In­stead of in­stalling ev­ery­thing in the chas­sis be­fore the sys­tem is fired up, we would place the moth­er­board on a piece of ply­wood large enough to ac­com­mo­date a full- size ATX moth­er­board, and in­stall the CPU, cooler, and mem­ory. Then, we’d con­nect a PSU, ATX power switch, video card (if needed), mon­i­tor, key­board, and sys­tem speaker (if needed) to the moth­er­board, and fire it up.

Some­times, when a sys­tem wouldn’t go through POST, re­seat­ing the RAM or CPU, or re­set­ting the BIOS took care of the prob­lem. How­ever, as I pre­vi­ously men­tioned, there were also a few oc­ca­sions when a part was DOA. Yes, I know things are not prop­erly grounded this way, as they would be in a chas­sis, but we ran the sys­tem only long enough to make sure that the BIOS prop­erly rec­og­nized the CPU and mem­ory, and that the CPU temp did not in­crease dras­ti­cally and be­yond ac­cept­able lim­its. Not all stu­dents pur­chased chas­sis with lots of work­ing room in­side. It’s eas­ier to re­seat a CPU, RAM, or cooler out­side of the chas­sis than it is in­side of one. This is true es­pe­cially if the power and data ca­bles have also been con­nected to all of the com­po­nents.

– Michael Crad­dock EX­EC­U­TIVE EDI­TOR ALAN DEX­TER RE­SPONDS: Cheers for your feed­back, and your own per­sonal tips for sys­tem build­ing. Your first point is valid, and it’s worth bear­ing in mind— although don’t for­get that you can re­turn com­po­nents to the man­u­fac­turer even if you’re out­side of the re­seller’s war­ranty. As for the sec­ond point: We have dif­fer­ent pref­er­ences on the team, and some of us (in­clud­ing my­self) al­ways build out­side the case first, to en­sure the core com­po­nents work, while oth­ers are happy to save any nasty sur­prises un­til fur­ther down the line.

A Call for Sim­plic­ity

I am a fan of your mag­a­zine, even though I have no idea of what you’re talk­ing about more than half the time. Yes, that sounds crazy, but I en­joy read­ing about the com­puter/ IT tech­nol­ogy, and you and your staff do an ex­cel­lent job of pre­sent­ing that in­for­ma­tion. How­ever, I must ask: Is there a pub­li­ca­tion for those like me who wish to read to be ac­quainted with com­put­ers, but on the most ele­men­tary level, so we too can be­come ad­vanced con­sumers, like the ones your mag­a­zine is geared to­ward?

This would be my dream ma­chine for gam­ing and pro­duc­tiv­ity com­bined: Case Cheap­est full tower avail­able. Moth­er­board X99. CPU The low­est cost, able to take ad­van­tage of the moth­er­board’s ca­pa­bil­i­ties. Mem­ory Cheap­est, min­i­mum, with all slots oc­cu­pied. GPU One board, but if needed, two (see CPU). Stor­age Three SSDs.

OS ded­i­cated, with enough room to ac­com­plish up­date func­tions

Pro­duc­tiv­ity soft­ware, such as Mi­crosoft Of­fice.

En­ter­tain­ment, par­ti­tion for games, mu­sic, and so on. Data stor­age HDD— 4x 500GB, or 2x 1TB. Is this too much or too lit­tle? Cool­ing Low­est- cost CPU wa­ter cooler. PSU Min­i­mum needed for the build, plus the nec­es­sary per­cent­age over. OS Mi­crosoft Win­dows 10.

What would be the cost of this sys­tem, at min­i­mum?

Note: I have two older moth­er­boards (EVGA nForce 680i LT SLI) and an­other one, that I have been try­ing to re­store, so I can un­der­stand how to con­fig­ure the sys­tem the way I want it, see above; no progress. –Wil­lie Gary EX­EC­U­TIVE EDI­TOR ALAN DEX­TER RE­SPONDS: We’ve got an in- depth, blow- by­blow build planned for later in the year that should be right up your street. As for your par­tic­u­lar build, we’re a bit con­fused why you’ve specced up an ex­pen­sive yet out- of- date moth­er­board (most high- end builds have moved to X299/AMD X399), but we’ll cover all of this in the forth­com­ing fea­ture.

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